President discusses conflicts and human rights in Egypt visit
Egypt/bilateral relations/fight against terrorism/Libya/Syria – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt (excerpts)
Cairo, 17 April 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is the second visit I’ve paid to Egypt since I was here in your country in August last year at the opening of the Suez Canal, which had been doubled in size. President Sisi, you invited me for a state visit. So I’m in Cairo today.
In the discussions we had, which are going to continue tomorrow, we wanted to give our relationship, the relationship between France and Egypt, all the necessary depth, in every area: in the areas of politics, the economy, culture and even, as you’ve mentioned, tourism.
First of all we discussed the situation in the region and the initiatives we must take to contribute to stability and peace, firstly with regard to Libya. For us, the government of Mr Sarraj is the legitimate government which can prepare for Libya’s future and for bringing everyone together. Tomorrow there will be a meeting of the House of Representatives, and we’d like that government to have all the necessary authority to ensure security, in order to prepare a new stage for Libya.
The Libyan army must be strengthened, and – along with the government and under the government’s authority – it will also contribute to this solution. We’ve waited a long time for there to be a government, for there to be an authority. We’ve reached that point, but we haven’t finished. We’ll work together, Egypt and France, to ensure that, together with the international community, we can put an end to what’s been happening for too long in Libya, namely chaos.
We also wanted to discuss the future of Syria. We can offer a step-by-step solution, provided the negotiations do have a place, the truce is honoured and the necessary pressure exists on the part of all those involved – I’m talking about the neighbouring countries and countries further afield – to ensure that Syria regains stability, security and above all peace. And that it puts an end to the massacres, oppression and terrorism.
We also wanted to talk about other issues, [including] Yemen and, there too, the solution that is taking shape. I’m aware of the conversations that have taken place right here, in Cairo, between the Egyptian President and the King of Saudi Arabia. There too, we can find the answers together.
I also wanted France to launch an initiative to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Egypt supports the French initiative, which is an initiative for peace and for a prospect of ending the conflict. It’s in everyone’s interest.
That’s why it’s very important that, in the framework of this visit, which I’m going to continue later – I began with Lebanon –, we can all focus on finding solutions. However, how can we hide the fact that the situation in the Middle East is serious, that terrorism has deep roots there and that we must fight resolutely against that scourge? That’s why Egypt and France have set out agreements for the region’s security and Egypt’s security. For us, Egypt’s security means the region’s security, and the region’s security also means Europe’s security. As you know, a number of agreements have been reached, a number of resources have been made available to Egypt, and this cooperation will always exist. It’s necessary, and it’s based on trust.
The fight against terrorism: sadly, Egypt knows what the fundamentalists are capable of. There again, we must coordinate our efforts. Terrorism isn’t simply groups, it’s also parts of the territory here in the Middle East which are controlled by them. We must also realize that terrorism also has roots in Europe and that we must combat the causes and consequences of that terrorism. That requires firmness, but it also requires there to be – and I’ve recalled this here in Cairo – a state and the rule of law. That’s the gist of what France is referring to when it talks about human rights. Human rights aren’t a constraint. Human rights are also a way of combating terrorism, because security is guaranteed and determined action is endorsed.
Human rights mean both freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and they also mean having a judicial system that can address all the questions that are asked.
We want to intensify our economic relations with Egypt. From this point of view too, many businesses have come here, but they’ll only be able to work if there’s security – it’s the condition for economic development all over the world. And there again, French businesses have chosen Egypt and will continue to invest here. They also have the trust of Egyptian businesses and Egyptian partners. There will be progress in many fields – in the transport field (the Cairo metro), in the energy field in all its forms, in the industrial field, for example, sanitation, treatment plants, which can also meet the demands being made for French technology to provide answers. French businesses are ready.
And we also have a fully-fledged cultural relationship, because Egypt is a great country – the great country of the region. But Egypt is also a country which is heir to a great culture and a very great civilization. We want, as far as possible, to contribute to this rich heritage and this rich creativity. The French language is also spreading in Egypt, and the teaching of French is very important for us. So there too, a number of agreements will be reached in the cultural and linguistic field. In terms of tourism, we also want to be able to show that, now security has returned, it’s possible for all people who love Egypt – and there are very many of them – to come as tourists and spend the necessary time here.
We can see clearly that what we want to establish between France and Egypt isn’t merely an ad-hoc relationship because the region is stricken or because there are responses we must provide. It’s not merely because of economic issues, because Egypt’s development is very rapid and because French businesses have technologies to showcase. No. What we want to establish between France and Egypt is a sustainable relationship, but one which fulfils certain conditions and will have to be enriched in the coming years. What we’ve embarked on with President Sisi, I think, is having or will have important knock-on effects for our two countries. (…)./.